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Toby Cruse

Industry Spotlight: The path to omnichannel customer care

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All too often when a business lets down a customer, it creates further problems for itself by failing to rectify the problem through its customer care channels.

In a nightmare scenario, customers can find themselves bounced around from live chats to call centres, Twitter to email, each time starting the conversation from scratch and repeating themselves. Meanwhile the wrong sofa/chair combo is left sitting untouched in their living room, the incorrectly-booked holiday remains unadjusted and the customer’s sense of frustration will build.

It is all well and good having multiple touchpoints that allow customers to contact you through a variety of mediums (multichannel), but these are of little use if they aren’t successfully integrated. Omnichannel customer care marries these platforms together, offering a seamless transition from one platform to the next, with the customer’s communication history available to each operator.

It sounds great on paper, but how can omnichannel customer care be put in place and implemented in practice? Here are three steps to follow:

  • Remove information siloes: imperative to the success of omnichannel customer care is having a clear, consolidated view of all the data available about your customer base. Many brands have multiple customer care platforms, but have failed to liberate the information available, leaving it to sit in siloes instead. As a result they are not getting a holistic view of the data, and ultimately losing value. It is no coincidence that the companies widely regarded to deliver the best customer experience, such as Amazon, are ‘born digital’ and so have had all data available to all parts of the business at once since their inception.
  • Use the right channels: transitioning from multichannel to omnichannel customer care should not be taken lightly. Like many complex processes, starting with small steps will ease the process. It is vital that when new channels are added they are properly integrated with the existing systems, and legacy systems should also in turn be brought up to date to enable the entire operation to flow smoothly. In order to carry this out correctly, it’s essential to have expert assistance.

 Boardroom noise about Chief Digital Officers has built steadily over the last couple of years and this is a great example of the kind of work they could be put to use on. The CDO should be the person to make sure the right channels are upgraded, at the right time, as well as making sure that staff are informed, trained and on-board with the changes that are made.

  • Manage your database: making sure your databases are integrated and managed efficiently will give account managers a clear view of their customer care operations. This is particularly important in areas such as retail, where a shop floor and online interactions are often entirely separate. Successful management of data, and a unification of the two will allow a single customer base, with all the data from an individual on one interface. This will in turn enable more efficient customer care, and a smoother, less disjointed customer journey.

Today, consumers have more data at their fingertips than ever before, and as such the power truly lies in their hands. As a result, customer care has never been so important and can be a real brand differentiator. It is imperative that there are as few stumbling blocks as possible in the customer journey, or else customers may leave and never return. From a business point of view, to meet customer demand, it is mission-critical to focus on evolving existing multichannel platforms and deliver a truly global omnichannel customer experience.

Starbucks and Amazon introduce voice ordering

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Starbucks is debuting voice ordering through their mobile app, with help from Amazon’s Alexa.

Select customers will be able to order their coffees ‘on command’ using the My Starbucks barista app on Apple devices that run iOS.

Starbucks hopes this will streamline the ordering process further, having already introduced the ability to order and pay for their items through the app.

Customers are now able to buy their order before they’ve even entered a store.

“Our team is focused on making sure that Starbucks voice ordering within our app is truly personal and equally important was finding the right partner in Amazon to test and learn from this new capability,” said Starbucks chief technology officer, Gerri Martin-Flickinger, “These initial releases are easy to use providing a direct benefit to customers within their daily routine and we are confident that this is the right next step in creating convenient moments to complement our more immersive formats.”

The ordering AI system imitates a messaging service, giving the illusion that customers are interacting directly with an in-store member of staff.

As part of the integration with Amazon’s Alexa platform, customers will be able to reorder their ‘usuals’ from within their house by using the phrase “Alexa, order my Starbucks.” The user can then collect from their closest Starbucks.

Currently in its beta stage, a more wider-scale rollout is expected by the summer, including use with Android markets later this year.

Guest Blog: Dan Smith: Under the influence

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Dan Smith, Director and Head of Advertising Law at Gowling WLG talks about how influencer marketing can put your brand at risk

Influencer marketing has exploded.  Brands want to tap in to the social reach of individuals and the strong relationships they have with their audience – whether that’s Kim Kardashian (with her 49.9 million followers on Twitter), a vlogger and games reviewer like PewDiePie (53 million YouTube subscribers) or less widely known individuals who nevertheless command a loyal following.

Using influencers to spread the word about your products can lend credibility and help you to reach demographics which are resistant to more traditional advertising.  But regulators around the world are taking a stand against influencer content which is advertising but does not disclose its true nature.  And brands and agencies that don’t adequately control their influencer networks are in the firing line.

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took action against Warner Bros’ influencer campaign for the game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (including PewDiePie).  In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority has secured undertakings from agencies including Starcom Mediavest and the Social Chain.  Through its 2015/2016 presidency of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, the UK pushed action on digital influencers to the top of regulatory agendas worldwide.

No-one is asking marketers to put influencer marketing back in the toybox.  But it’s critical to have the right contracts with your influencers and the right policies for labelling content and monitoring influencer compliance.  Not taking action now could result in enforcement action or even criminal prosecution.

If you are paying your influencers or providing them with free product, then the influencer needs to disclose that.  In the UK, if you also have control over the content which the influencer produces, then it will need to be labelled with ‘ad’ or similar wording – ‘sponsored by’, ‘thanks to’ and ‘in association with’ will not be sufficient.  The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has interpreted control in a very broad sense – for example, the provision of key messages is enough to amount to control, even if the content is in the influencer’s own words.  It has even found that a contractual restriction on an influencer promoting competitors during the campaign period amounts to control, triggering the requirement to label content as advertising.  The disclosure of the nature of the content also has to be timely – before the user engages with the content – so a branded shot at the end of a video is not sufficient.  The disclosure must appear whatever device the user is using to view the content.

Influencers may not be familiar with the regulatory requirements.  They may be resistant to labelling their content as an ‘ad’, for fear of being seen to be too commercial.  But it is the brand and the agency which face the greatest risk of action from a regulator.  So it is essential that you work through labelling issues with your influencers at the outset and ensure an appropriate contract is in place documenting the agreement.  While a template influencer contract has been produced by ISBA – the body representing UK advertisers – it is probably too lengthy and formal to be suitable for use with large numbers of influencers in the context of short social campaigns.  It is therefore likely that brands and agencies will have to establish their own templates.

Once a contract is in place, you will need to monitor compliance and take action where influencers fail to meet the relevant disclosure requirements.  In the US, the FTC has pursued enforcement against businesses which fail to monitor their influencers and it is easy to see the UK regulators taking a similar stance.  While monitoring may be logistically difficult, in campaigns where large numbers of influencers are producing large amounts of social content, that will not be an excuse.  Regulators have noted in the past that brands seem perfectly capable of monitoring social, when it is in their own interests to do so (for example, when checking for infringements or tracking brand sentiment).

There is widespread non-compliance in the market when it comes to the labelling of influencer content.  But there is no indication that the issue will move off the top of the regulators’ priority list.  And it’s a brand issue too – enforcement action in this area attracts media attention and it can impact on trust if consumers feel they have been deceived into engaging with content they might otherwise have avoided.  So now is the time to get your house in order and ensure that your influencer marketing is exciting consumers, not regulators.

New Snapchat deal to improve advertising

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The company behind social media app Snapchat has partnered with marketing leader Kenshoo to focus on interactive mobile advertisements.

With a client base of 2,000 leading brands, Kenshoo is currently the only marketer to provide direct access to Google, Facebook, Instagram, Bing, Pinterest, Yahoo and now Snapchat.

‘Snap Ads’ are currently leading the way with mobile engagement, using a native format that features ads in the same style as regular Snapchat videos.

Featuring a vertical, portrait, resolution and running for up to 10 seconds on a screen, users can interact with ads by swiping up on their device in an attempt to focus on consumers who are spending less and less time watching tv and consuming traditional media.

Reaching around 41% of 18-34 year olds daily within the United States, Snapchat offers a huge market to tap into.

“They have a great audience, an engaging ad format, and an app that is replacing the phone’s native camera for many users,” said Will Martin-Gill, chief strategy and development officer at Kenshoo, “This was an obvious move for us to make given our unique position as the only marketing technology that provides direct access to the world’s leading publishers.”

HotelTonight becomes Chelsea’s first mobile sponsor

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Last-minute booking app has become the first mobile sponsor for footballing giant Chelsea FC.

The sponsorship offers extra discounted hotel deals from attendance at Stamford Bridge, bookable direct from smartphones during and after the match.

This is the first time a mobile app has sponsored Chelsea, and is among the first to sponsor such a high-profile club.

“Chelsea FC is an iconic global brand with incredibly loyal supporters who come from far and wide, and attending matches can often spontaneously turn from a day into a night or weekend,” said HotelTonight’s Chief Marketing Officer Ray Elias, “HotelTonight aims to enhance that experience by providing the best way to book extraordinary hotels, at amazing values, at a moment’s notice.”

Along with in-arena advertising, fans will be offered a chance to win surprises, appropriately when Chelsea score within the last seven minutes of a game.

“Chelsea Football Club is thrilled to name HotelTonight as our first mobile app partner and is delighted by the opportunity this brings our supporters at our matches,” said Christian Purslow, Managing Director of Chelsea FC, “we’re pleased to connect them with the perfect solution to turn a match into a night at a great hotel.”

For more information, you can view their video by clicking here


Emoji brand expands in run up to film release

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The emoji company has announced their acquisition of the trademark “emojiville” as the latest in a string of deals on the road to the major summer movie.

The company owns the registered trademark for the term ’emoji’, which is often used to describe small emotive pictures featured on smartphones.

Although companies such as Google, Apple and even social media sites like Twitter feature similar images, the emoji company boasts ‘the official brand’, and recently partnered with Sony for use in the upcoming film, The Emoji Movie.

Taking place within a smartphone, the story explores the personalities of these exaggerated caricatures. With the backing of Sony and featuring the talents of big-hitters including James Corden and Sir Patrick Stewart, the film is expected to be a big hit for both Sony and the accompanying merchandise.

As emojis are used by a variety of age groups and social backgrounds, the emoji company is hoping to appeal to as many as possible.

“we are proactively developing new brand concepts to address different target audiences and to support our global partners with fresh and powerful marketing concepts” said emoji company CEO Marco Huesges.

“There will be no confusion in the marketplace since [Sony Pictures Animation] products will be from their original and proprietary The Emoji Movie motion picture content while the emoji company is offering its own developed icons with the classic look & feel known from the Unicode.”

Guest Blog: Stephen Morgan: Why your CMS platform could become your marketing hero

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Stephen Morgan is the co-founder of digital transformation business, Squiz. 

Whilst providing marketers with the ability to create and manage digital content is still the critical function of any CMS, marketers could be missing out on the platforms true potential.

In 2016, our State of Marketing Technology report found that 83% of businesses were using a CMS, placing it as the most commonly used piece of marketing software, ahead of other tools such as analytics platforms (77%). However, the research also revealed that 53% of marketers struggle with marketing technologies beyond their initial investment, so it’s absolutely vital that marketers are utilising it to its full potential in order to gain real business value.

So what more could your CMS platform be doing for you?


Seamless integration

A recent report by Verint and IDC highlighted that brands are finding it difficult to hold on to customers as digital consumers become less loyal. This is yet another indication of how important the customer journey is in driving retention and loyalty – customers want a quick and seamless experience when browsing your site and considering a purchase.

If your CMS has bugs, runs slowly, or delays with connecting to other platforms, like a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, this will impact the marketing team’s ability to engage with customers in real-time using personalised messaging – in other words, they’ll be less likely to convert.

As a result, it’s vital to seamlessly integrate a CMS with all the other digital tools being utilised throughout the organisation. When this happens, you’ll be able to enhance and analyse customer actions so that it becomes a hub for customer insights. This way, a CMS goes from being just a piece of technology for the marketing team, to a vital resource for the entire organisation as they develop product strategies and objectives.


Utilising analytics to create compelling content

The best businesses are those that look at their customers’ needs first and build content that will be useful and relevant for them.

To get to these insights, you need good data and analytics, so the starting point is ensuring that you’re properly collating accurate data.

A CMS can help to understand exactly what pieces of content are of most interest to a customer, providing insights via integrations or in-product analytics, which enable you to combine it with other data sources (such as previous purchasing behaviour) to help you to determine what kinds of web pages, reports, blogs posts etc. would be of most interest to that customer in the coming weeks.

The customer is key here, and being able to deliver this level of insight enables highly personalised content to be shared across the organisation and other technology platforms, identifying and flagging users at decision-making stages or communicating with them via other mediums at particular times of the day.


Cross-device integration

Whilst a CMS is often left out of this conversation, cross-device (and channel) integration must be an important part of the strategy.

People are now interacting with brands across lots of different devices, so a CMS needs to be able to provide relevant content that responds to its needs.

Unfortunately, in our 2016 report, over half of marketers (51%) say that they couldn’t react to new channels or devices – this simply can’t be the case in 2017. Marketers must make it their priority to understand multi-device marketing, and in doing so, recognise the role that a CMS can play in aiding their strategy. Ultimately, this will result in a smoother end-to-end customer experiences and enable you to give the customer exactly what they want, when they want it.

We’ve seen customer behaviour shift so much in the past year, and this won’t change. What’s important is that we react to these changes and look for quick-wins by taking advantage of the systems that are already in place.

Top trends expected to be the “mainstream of tomorrow”

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A report by drinks company Diageo has revealed the top trends expecting to become the mainstream in 2017.

The company, who is responsible behind brands such as Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and Guinness, has isolated three main social trends that will put companies ahead of the curve this year.


Exceptional becomes the rule

Digital technology is increasingly destroying the traditional. ‘The diary is dead’, according to Diageo, as the set-in-place becomes the spontaneous. As people’s work days become more flexible and our time online becomes more sporadic, companies need to be different to be heard.

One leading trend expected is VR, which is expected to have around 171 million active users by 2018, and allows users to have immersive experiences accessible anywhere, anytime.


In with the ‘in’ crowd

Cinema sales are among those suffering from an increasingly popular entertainment venue – the home. On demand services, personal entertainment systems and premium services like Netflix or Amazon Prime mean everything is moments away from arriving to your front door or living room.

Whether a television or a mobile device, users are never far from a screen or an internet connection, and the marketers that take advantage of that will take the lead.


Optimise not compromise

Expected to be the year of choice. A balanced and, more importantly, personalised lifestyle is more attainable now than ever before, and the majority of consumers are going to continue to make purchasing decisions that say something unique about them.

Directing content and marketing to the individual, taking into account aesthetic, culture, backgrounds, allergies and more will set yourself apart from the crowd and prove you care about the customer.


“We have been innovating for hundreds of years and have a strong history as industry pioneers in identifying and responding to trends,” explained Zoe Lazarus, global future and culture planning director at Diageo, adding “Our success relies not only on understating our consumers today, but also on tracking and responding to emerging socialising trends and behaviours that will become the mainstream of tomorrow”

Forum Insight: 7 effective ways to feel the fear and network anyway

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If you’re shy, don’t think that successful networking is out of the question. Molly Dyson offers top tips for the less outgoing.

While working with Forum Events we’ve heard from many industry members that their job can be extremely isolating, especially if your position is the only one of its kind at your company. That’s where strategic networking comes into play, but it’s not always easy to get past your fears and meet new people. Here are our top tips to tackle trepidation and go head on into a successful networking event.

1 Set a goal

What are you hoping to achieve by networking? Are you in need of a support group of other, similar employees that you can turn to with questions? Maybe you’re looking for a new job and want to get to know people who might know of available positions. Or perhaps you’re just on the hunt for new contacts. Whatever your goal, have it firmly in your mind so you can be more strategic in your approach.

2 Find the right event or group

Once you have a goal in mind you can be more selective with which events you attend. If you’re looking for suppliers, face-to-face events such as the Digital Marketing Solutions Summit are the place to be. Want to meet like-minded individuals? Join local and national networks to give you the chance to interact with a variety of different people from different backgrounds.

3 Remember you’re not alone

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re probably not the only shy person in the room. Whether it’s your first or fifth networking event, look around the room and spot your fellow wallflowers – they’ll be the first people to target.

4 Jump in feet first

When you’re at the event, try not to spend too much time waiting for somebody else to strike up a conversation. When you’ve spotted the other shy ones in the room, approach them and introduce yourself – you can even make a joke of the fact that you’re there alone. Sometimes it pays off to step out of your comfort zone and make the first effort.

5 Have an elevator pitch ready

Prepare a quick statement that tells others who you are, what you do and what you’re passionate about. This should be no longer than 30 seconds, but preferably less – it doesn’t need to be the story of your life. You just want to give people a taster of who you are so they’re intrigued enough to ask more questions and continue the conversation.

6 Keep up appearances

Your tone of voice and body language make up 93% of a person’s impression of you. So try to maintain an open and positive stance with a welcoming smile on your face, and don’t use negative language. You have to find the right balance of confidence and humility – nobody likes a braggart, but you do have to be able to tote your own successes if you want to maintain professional relationships with the people you meet.

7 Have fun

Need we say more? Get out there and enjoy yourself!

Industry Spotlight: Free help to improve your WordPress

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WhoisWP is a free online detector tool that analyzes any website created with WordPress. The results reveal what WordPress theme a site is using, with the aims to eliminate time spent browsing the WordPress theme directory.

Hoping to save time and encourage inspiration, WhoisWIP can also list WordPress plugins installed on the site, helping you learn from your competitors and WordPress leaders.

Based on visual content and usability research, the team in charge of this project developed this tool to obtain an improvement in the way people express their creative vision when designing their own website.

Their site also features a constantly updated blog section, in order to bring users the latest information.

The premise behind WhoisWP is that “copying someone’s style is flattering and a means to perpetuate the idea further so that more people can enjoy it.” says Ionut Marin, the WhoisWP project manager.

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